Despite the Palestinian football team is not present in the FIFA World Cup competitions in Qatar, the Palestinian flag is seen in the hands of football fans everywhere in and out of stadiums.
As the most important sport event of the world is taking place in Qatar, the Palestinian cause has received remarkable support and recognition, with football fans holding up Palestinian flags of all sizes before, during, and after the games.
Holders of the flags believe that with the whole world watching, it is indeed an opportunity to send the voice of the oppressed people of Palestine to the world, showcasing Arab unity and solidarity amid Israel’s ongoing occupation of the Palestinian lands.
Even non-Arabs from other nationalities have joined this show of solidarity with the people of Palestine by waving the Palestinian flag in matches and in the streets.
Just this Wednesday and during the second half of the World Cup Group D game between Tunisia and France, a football supporter wearing a Tunisia shirt jumped into the playing field, holding a Palestinian flag at Education Stadium, Qatar.
As the man was pinned down and dragged off a few minutes later by around a dozen security officials, the crowed supported his move by chanting “Palestine, Palestine”, and “Free Palestine”.
Several other supporters were also carrying the green, white, black and red Palestinian flag inside the compound of the stadium and raised it time to time during the game.
Among all the Arab countries, Tunisia is very well known for its support for the Palestinian cause and has so far strongly resistance against Israel’s efforts for normalizing relations with Arab states. Though both Tunisia and Israel opened official “interest sections” — de facto consulates — in the 1990s, ties were severed with the outbreak of the Second Intifada that took place back in 2000 and have not been restored yet.
Good to mention that of all the 12 million population of Tunisia, only 11% of Tunisian citizens are interested in normalizing relations with Israel, according to data released last month by Arab Barometer, a nonpartisan research network that examines the social, political, and economic attitudes and values of ordinary citizens across the Arab world.
FIFA generally prohibits teams, players and fans from bearing signs or symbols that carry a political, religious or personal message during official matches. Ahead of the tournament, FIFA president Gianni Infantino urged the 32 participating countries to “let football take center stage” over politics. It is therefore not yet clear whether fans or the Tunisian team would face repercussions for the incident.
Palestinian flag everywhere
Wednesday’s football game between Tunisia and France was not the first time the Palestinian issue was brought up during the international sport event in Qatar.
Likewise, and in a similar effort to draw attention to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the World Cup, a large pro-Palestinian banner was displayed by Tunisian soccer fans at the Al-Janoub Stadium in Al-Wakrah, Qatar, during Tunisia’s previous game against Australia on Saturday.
Some football lovers also held up a banner bearing the Palestinian flag and a caption that read: “Free Palestine”. Other examples include Qatari fans and players wearing armbands and ribbons featuring the Palestinian flag during Qatar’s opening match against Ecuador on last Sunday, and some Saudi fans holding Palestinian flags during their match against Argentina on last Tuesday.